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[non-Blender] 3D "joystick" makes character animation easier


This 3D "joystick" is made from interchangeable 3D printed joints. You can re-create your own rig by plugging the pieces together and then post your character by simply manipulating the "joystick". This is still a research project and it will be presented at SIGGRAPH this year. Want much?

Until recently, computer software animation developers had to manipulate characters by using their computer mouse to drag virtual limbs into poses one tedious, time-consuming key frame at a time. Now researchers at the Interactive Geometry Lab (IGL) at ETH Zurich have developed a whole new way of creating movement in virtual characters using 3D model "joysticks" that directly create shape and movement inputs.

About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.


  1. Craig Richardson on

    lol, this actually quite clever, this is like stop motion meets current animation methods.
    but although this might be a little bit easier for some it is going to be seen as an extra step that doesn't necessarily have to happen which would ultimately complicate things further taking longer to get something done, but that is the trade of.

  2. "To help encourage further research, the IGL/ALS researchers have made
    available the design for building blocks of their device as open
    hardware, and plans for a set of 25 ready-made building blocks being
    made commercially available are also being considered." Now that is good news.

  3. Lou Adornato on


    This looks SO much more efficient at setting up keyframes. I can't wait to get my hands on this.

  4. Interesting animation method. I see this being useful as a complement to traditional animation methods. A decent alternative to motion-capture, though definitely a lot of setup work, and needing a lot of hand-animation cleanup, perhaps even more than motion-capture animation.

    • Scott Amsberry on

      Perhaps an alternative way of doing motion capture. Since the hardware is open source, you could conceivably create a wearable version.

    • marcus carneiro on

      I don't think cleanup will be a problem, the sensor are restrained, like a joystick, so they have a fixed range and frequency response. What I see as problems are specific details in the rigging setup and hand tuning the timing of the animations, as not all motions will be possible to be performed by the puppet.

      Another problem that I see are the quality of construction. Joysticks have only two axis, and have to be calibrated as there are small differences in each unity manufactured. The minimum value are calibrated by "dead zone", that is, some values bellow X are ignored. This is needed because the position 0 is not really static, the stick is kind loose.

      So, for this to be precise and long lasting, it will need to be very well constructed and probably costly.

      • Well, more of what I mean by cleanup being an issue is that it seems like the quality of the animations will result in what I can only call a "Ray Harryhausen" look, where the animations look kinda disjointed and not quite natural. Of course, any method of animation requires cleanup, but I think it may take some work to smooth the results better to avoid that noticeable "Harryhausen" effect. (No disrespect to the legend Harryhausen. lol)

  5. marcus carneiro on

    There is a japanese company that makes a humanoid system like this. It's called QUMARION and is on the market since 2011, but it costs more than $1000

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